Fun fact. Did you know South Africa is home to the longest wine route in the world?
Despite many people typically referring to the 'Winelands' as only Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, the real makoya actually spans a whopping 850km - all the way from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.
The Cape Route 62 starts in the wine-growing areas of Wellington, Tulbagh, Worcester, Robertson and the Klein Karoo, ending at the last town in Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape.
While the actual R62 starts just outside Ashton, the wine route extends beyond the route through Robertson all the way to the other side of N1 in the Witzenberg Mountains.
If you don't know how long 850km really is, try driving it in one day, in a 1969 Mercedes-Benz with four gears and a top speed of 110km per hour.
It's a journey my brother and I embarked on once, in my classic car, Daisy.
It was like time-travelling in every sense of the word.
The smell of old leather and car wax lingered inside the car, even while the windows were wound down to allow the warm Karoo air to blow through our hair. Outside, a landscape that has stood unchanged for millennia crept by at 110km per hour - or what felt like another 100 years.
We had no aircon and no radio, but we had padkos and Cremora coffee. And every town we drove into or farmstall we stopped at in those 200km intervals was an oasis.
Unlike with other places where tourists might be scoffed at, visitors on the Route 62 are welcomed like old friends. At Ronnies’ Sex Shop, for example, the biker behind the bar had started pouring our glasses of Coca-Cola when we wheeled into the driveway already. Even before we had set foot in the iconic travellers' rest for the first time, we had made a dear friend.
That is what Route 62 is - a golden thread running through the heart of every southern hotspot in SA, connecting the Cape Winelands, the Klein Karoo, the Garden Route, the Great Karoo and so many other little routes.
The biggest mistake you can make is to - like us - try and experience this very unique part of SA in one go. You should digest it piece by piece, like we've outlined here...
Kick off in the Cape
The Cape part of the longest wine route in the world starts on the western side of the N1, in the Witzenberg Mountains where the towns of Tulbagh, Ceres and Wolseley snuggly sit. The area is known for it's extreme adventure offerings, but also its unique wine offering.
One of the best ways to experience this wine offering, is by hopping on the newly restored Old Ceres steam train. The tourism steam train departs from Demeter Station and take tourists into the Ceres valley over selected weekends. Get more info about it here.
Check out: An Adventurer’s guide to the Witzenberg
Binge on goodness in the Breede River Valley
If a few blocks of fudge can repeatedly became the topic of discussion during a brief Breede Valley breakaway, you should understand the marvel of their spicey, gooey, chocolaty goodness...
And it’s not only the fudge that's worth raving about in the Breede River Valley. Loved and enjoyed by locals from Robertson and Worcester for their toothsome pizzas and hard-to-beat view, Nuy on the Hill is like a Breede Valley lighthouse, inviting travellers from near and far to get in on the tastes and sights.
While the area is mostly associated with wine (being the world's longest wine route and all), some miss the opportunity to sample other culinary treats in the area. A few charming and yummy foodie destinations deserve a spot on your Breede Valley itinerary.
Die veldskoen and Mountain Brewing Company are but a few worth mentioning...
SEE: A foodie escape to the Breede Valley and beyond
Escape to the outer corners of Buitenstekloof
At the foot of the prominent Langeberg Mountains, in an untouched, natural vicinity, lies the hidden gem, Buitenstekloof. The farm is one of Robertson's prized locations, located on Route 62 and deemed the perfect location to unwind, to celebrate friendships and other relationships, to regain a sense of peace and harmony and to enjoy nature’s offerings.
Robertson Wine Valley has a variety of offerings to explore and experience, from beautiful scenery to stunning accommodation and of course…fine wine. You do know that wine goes hand-in-hand with beautiful scenery, right? And maybe a delectable cheese too... and then there's Buitenstekloof that adds an adventure touch to the valley.
Buitenstekloof is also home to the very first straw bale cellar in South Africa and also, the highest straw bale structure in SA. It is a staggering, nine metres high!
READ MORE HERE: Buitenstekloof: An all-in-one destination on Route 62
Enter the real R62
Take a trip back in time in Montagu
What's the best way to experience SA's iconic Route 62, you ask? On the backseat of a 1950s classic Cadillac, exploring the wineries, farm stalls and iconic Route 62 dives with a dedicated driver (yeah for wine) and expert on local diners, drive-ins and dives...
Considering its setting, Montagu offers loads of options for the venturesome travellers - hiking trails in the gobsmackingly beautiful mountains, mountain biking, rock climbing, cliff jumping, waterfall scaling, sky-rocking... you name it, you can find it there.
But if you're after spot to unwind and feel the wind in your hair, check out our guide on time-travelling in Montagu here:
SEE: Montagu: A Route 62 trip down memory lane
Barrydale is nestled at the foot of the Majestic Langeberge where the northern exit of the Tradouws Pass meets the R62 from Worcester, Robertson and Montagu.
Like with many South African dorpies, travellers can spot the protruding Dutch Reformed Church tower long before actually entering the town. And, like with the other dorpies, the church has great significance within the establishment of the town.
It's no exception with Barrydale; farmers who settled on the lands in the valley at the top of the Tradouw Pass decided they wanted their own church and chose the spot for their religious symbol at the point where the R62 and R324 meet. The village thus owes its existence to both a church and crossroads. The latter still being a major source of life for Barrydale.
For the full scoop on what to get up to in and around Barrydale, check out: Blissful Barrydale
Home to the popular local cooking show, Kokkedoor, it's no surprise that Prince Albert is really quite a Karoo food mecca. We suggest making it for the Saturday market, then spend the rest of the day walking through the main street exploring the little cafes and galleries.
Try The Olive Branch, or Lazy Lizard for breakfast. The latter is perfect for wintery days, as there is a cozy fireplace to have a glass of red wine by. A visit to Gay's Guernsey Dairy, the town's fresh milk provider, is also a must.
In the evening, opt for dinner at the Prince Albert Hotel or at the Gallery Cafe, situated on the upper level of one of the towns many amazing art exhibition spaces.
Find rest in De Rust
Choosing from the selection of popular and attraction-filled towns along Route 62, one can easily miss the lesser known small towns that are attractions in their own right. Located next to its popular bigger brother Oudtshoorn, lies De Rust - a peaceful stop easily missed by those heading to the elaborate ostrich farms in the region.
De Rust's Boutique Backpackers is an upscale on what you'd associate the word 'backpackers' with, but still close enough to the unpretentious ‘Kaalgat Kudu Bar’ - where a game of pool almost always leads to visitors tasting the locals' specially brewed witblits...
The town of De Rust is also the gateway to the beautiful Meiringspoort Waterfall, a short drive north of the town.
Route 62 connects to a bunch of other must-see South African spots. Here are a few of our favourites...
The Garden Route
The iconic Garden Route can be seen as the ideal gateway to the Route 62 from the eastern and southern side, with De Rust being the ideal point of entry. It can also be the perfect breakaway from the R62, especially if you're travelling with your family.
As a break from the often dry and flat landscape dominating most of the area around the R62, the Garden Route offers all sorts of waterside accommodation - which really does help you gear down and relax.
If you're thinking of dodging the busy N2, take the R62 to your Garden Route escape.
Check out: Spring road-tripping: Family fun along the Garden Route
The Baviaans Route
The Baviaanskloof is South Africa’s biggest wilderness area – stretching all the way from the edge of Route 62 to the Gamtoos Valley and beyond. This Mega Reserve is rich in biodiversity, and includes seven of South Africa’s eight Biomes.
As the largest protected site in the country, the Baviaans area offers 4x4 enthusiasts and nature lovers the perfect surroundings for adventure.
Families will especially enjoy this area, as one there are hikes varying in difficulty and range and splash pools are a plenty for cooling off. Even in winter, the cool rock pools are a welcomed resource for adrenaline pumping hikers and mountain bikers.
Get the full inside scoop on the Baviaans here: Adventure secrets of the Baviaans
Sitting right on the edge of the R62, Swellendam is a must if you're a traveller in search of a scrumptious destination. Tredici, right on the N2, is a lovely nook with delicious pastries and nibbles, a good wine selection and (foodies be warned)... a VERY appealing kitchen gadget section.
For real spoiling make a dinner reservation at the renowned La Sosta Restaurant, which has just won the Eat Out 2014 Best Italian Restaurant award. "Their tasting menus thrills with delicate flavours and superb presentation and its all served in their intimate dining room that seats no more than 20 lucky people," travel writer Dawn Jorgensen says.
To single Swellendam down to food only would not be fair. Here's why Dawn calls Swellendam a place to linger.
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